In Music

The Tygers -- Tony Dancy (left), Craig Fairchild and Lanny Hale today...

In Music

... and as they looked in 1969.

In Music

The group's 1968 record didn't get much traction.

Tygers' follow-up record was 40 years in the making

Releasing a solid debut album is one of the tougher accomplishments in the music industry. The only thing more difficult, it seems, is making a good sophomore disc. The old saying in the recording industry holds that bands have "a lifetime to make the first record and six weeks to make the second."

The Tygers broke that mold ... and it only took 40 years.

Formed in the late 1960s by Milwaukee teenagers Tony Dancy and Dennis Duchrow, the group parlayed a popular single, "Little by Little," and a strong regional following into a national record deal with Herb Alpert's A&M Records. The group's debut record, released in 1968, failed to gain traction and the record deal evaporated.

Duchrow left for the Vietnam War, two other members left for personal reasons and the remaining four members -- Dancy, Craig Fairchild, Lanny Hale and Fred Euler -- kept up the fight for a few years, only to find frustration.

Hale was accepted into medical school and became a successful ophthalmologist. Euler left to pursue a career in hotel management.

Dancy and Fairchild headed for California, where they created music for "The Brady Bunch" and "The Flintstones." Dancy reformed The Tygers -- with new and old members -- for shows in the 1980s and '90s.

About a year ago, Dancy and Fairchild gathered at Hale's home studio and began working on the long-awaited follow-up record, "The Second Album."

OnMilwaukee.com talked to the group about their history and the new record, which is available on iTunes.

OnMilwaukee.com: The perception among bands today is that in that there were so many more places for bands to play in the 1960s -- dances, CYO events, union halls -- than exist today. Was that the case? How could you tell when bands were "getting big" back then?

Craig Fairchild: (It's) hard to specify exactly why the number of places dropped, but the greatest likelihood, in my opinion, is that it was economic. There is risk associated with running live music. Competition came from a number of sources, including the ones mentioned above. Access has to be another possibility. YouTube, for instance, allows us to see bands much more easily today without paying a dime. Back in the day, you couldn't see the real thing as easily, so the best bands were the ones who could most accurately portray the real thing. Nowadays, cover bands don't carry anywhere near the cache they once did.

Tony Dancy: Yes, it's true. One could actually make a decent living as a musician in the '60s and '70s. Milwaukee had probably a dozen nightclubs that ran live music six nights a week, not to mention those CYO dances that ran every weekend at just about every church hall in town, plus the teen clubs and school dances.

As for bands "getting big," the main factor was airplay. Before ravenous corporate maws like Clear Channel gobbled up all the nation's radio stations, local radio really was local. A sympathetic DJ would simply add a band's record to his play list. In our case, that sympathetic DJ was Bob Barry at WOKY, and I give him almost full credit for making "Little By Little" a local hit.

That could never happen now because local radio is not local and a local DJ has no leeway as to which records he plays ... In the '60s, that airplay on the big Top 40 station in town would lead to more gigs and to TV appearances and write-ups in the Journal and Sentinel and pretty soon the band was "big" -- in Milwaukee, anyway.

Fairchild: I think a mark of prestige -- i.e. "making it big" locally, was having a back-up band open the show. Two 45-minute sets was the limit. If you had to play three hours to make the point, you definitely hadn't made it. Having a record was, of course, required for success, with the grail being a hit record. To rank at the top of the local radio charts was better for realizing adolescent dreams than it was for making money, but money was not the big motivator as much as crowd size, reaction, and general demand for the band.

OMC: What groups influenced The Tygers? A lot of bands of the time felt that Beatles/Stones divide. Were the Beach Boys an influence on you guys, because of the vocals?

Lanny Hale: We were heavily influenced, as were most musicians, by the incredible success of The Beatles and their music. From there it became clear that The Tygers were a vocal group and those groups with big vocals became our focus.

TD: I'm not sure if I was aware of a Beatles/Stones divide; we covered just about anything that was on the Top 40 charts at the time, though I was partial to The Beatles because of the high level of sophistication in their musical construction, i.e. melodies, harmonies and chord changes. And they were so fresh and new, no one had heard anything like them before

As for the Beach Boys, yes they were an influence, and it must be noted that Brian Wilson's primary influence in vocal arranging was The Four Freshmen, so in my being influenced by Brian Wilson in my arranging, I was also influenced by The Four Freshmen, though I didn't know it at the time. The Association was another influence, along with The Fifth Dimension, even The Four Seasons. A little later I was influenced quite a bit by Richard Carpenter's style of vocal arranging. Much later, I discovered The Hi-Los; how I wish I would have discovered them sooner.

CF: All things vocal: The Fifth Dimension, The Association, Beach Boys, Crosby Stills & Nash, The Esquires, Friends of Distinction.

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Talkbacks

WisconsinMom | Aug. 12, 2010 at 7:15 p.m. (report)

How well I remember Tony's Tygers playing school dances at Edison Junior High School back in the mid-60's. They were wildly popular because their style and looks mimicked the Beatles who were becoming so popular around that time. Nice to know they are still making music! The group I remember was Tony Dancy, Fred Euler, Dennis Duchrow and Dave Kuck.

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WisconsinMom | Aug. 12, 2010 at 7:10 p.m. (report)

How well I remember back at Edison Junior High School when Tony's Tygers played school dances. They were popular because of the long hair mimicking the Beatles, who were just coming to popularity. How fun that they are back together!

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Myke | March 5, 2010 at 7:49 p.m. (report)

We were priveledged to witness the re-incarnanted Tygers several times early in this decade.Super tight band with amazing vocals & vocal harmony.Glad 2 see them once again coming back on the scene !

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tmaxx | March 5, 2010 at 8:40 a.m. (report)

Ahh, I remember them well. The last time I saw them they were trying to crawl out the window at St. Mary's in Menomonee Falls when a fight broke out during their concert over 40 years ago. Their manager made them stay so their equipment wouldn't get damaged or stolen! They were good.

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